100-ton crane used to remove tree off historic Mount Vernon home

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 5:43 PM CDT
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MOUNT VERNON, Iowa (KCRG) - Clean-up is still underway in Mount Vernon following last week’s powerful derecho, and the owners of a historic home couldn’t clean-up their house alone.

The owners of the Reuben Ash Home estimate that for nearly 180 years, a pine tree stood strong, shading their property and acting as a landmark that towered over almost every other tree around it. That was until last week, when that same tree came crashing down, making their family home, now unlivable.

Located in the town’s historic Ash Park District, built-in 1839 and named after one of the area’s earliest settlers, Reuben Ash. The home is now deemed unsafe to enter.

“I said ‘jeez, that’s going to take our pine tree’ out and it did, just maybe two to three minutes after that,” Steven Maurice, the homeowner, said.

Maurice described what happened when a powerful windstorm blew through.

“Just a big crunch and some broken glass and we felt the ground shook,” Maurice said.

The towering tree now crushing the home Maurice said he and his wife put years of work into, hoping to keep it in their family for generations, but on Wednesday help arrived. Coonrod Crane of Cedar Rapids used a 100-ton crane to lift parts of the tree off the home.

“Another reason it had to be so much is because it had a longer reach and so they wanted to be able to make sure that crane wasn’t going to move,” Maurice said.

Piece by piece, a team with CJ Hauling, of Lisbon, cut-up and strapped stumps onto the crane to be lifted to the ground below. One worker said it’s the tallest tree he’s ever worked on.

It’s not only the house that took a hit, the Maurice’s pocketbooks also feel the pain of a costly crane.

“I think it’s around $500 bucks an hour and that’s when they leave and when they get back,” Maurice said.

When it comes to replacing that tree again, Maurice said they have a decision to make.

“We aren’t going to put a pine tree in. The two ash trees survived, the birch tree survived and all the oaks survived, so we might have a different choice, but I don’t expect to live that long to see the next one that big,” Maurice said.

The family is living in a camper on their property, staying hopeful they can get back in their home soon. They have also applied for a grant with the State Historical Society.

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